TOS: S1E12: “The Menagerie”

In which Spock plots, the plot plods, and the pilot plotzes. 

Part 1

They don't paint 'em like they used to.

They don’t paint ’em like they used to.

Dat background. My god. Reminds me of the Georgio Moroder colorized and disco-ized version of Metropolis. You should watch it, because I shouldn’t be the only person going mad here. This is Starbase 11, where the officers wear flowers instead of the little trek arrow thing. You know, I’m actually not sure what to call that thing. Also, apparently not all the personnel wear the flower-sunbirst thing. Anyway, I digress. Chris Pike, previous commander of the Enterprise, was aboard a training vessel and it exploded. He saved a bunch of children and now lives in a toilet. He only communicates by yes/no answers. Stephen Hawking has more communication potential than Pike.

Luckily, we established just a few episodes ago that Spock can read minds, so if he could – oh no wait, he already has a plan. He’s going to disobey Pike’s BEEP BEEP (no) and abduct him and take him somewhere. Now, at this point, it’s prudent tom remember that Spock served under Pike in the pilot “The Cage”. Given the name of the episode, it’s not guaranteed to be cheating if I guess that Spock will be taking Pike to Talos IV. However, I am cheating. I remember that as a thing that happens.

It seems wrong to me that this starbase is on land. I don’t know why, but starbases just feel like they should be in space, or in orbit. Nonetheless, it is. Also, Spock appears to be the only one who knew that Pike was here and horribly injured, and it leads to an entertaining shouting match between Kirk and the administrator of Starbase 11.

Kirk’s a little racist. I mean, he’s not malicious-racist, but he’s really generalizing. “No Vulcan can be disloyal.” There are worse predjudices, but still. I guess if the Civil Rights movement is still happening, ‘good predjudices’ is more realistic than ‘no predjudices,’ So before we do analysis of “First Contact” and “Enterprise”,  I’ll do a quick preamble and remind everyone that the Vulcans show up to an Earth devastated by civil war and play the part of benevolent overlords for a while, carefully doling out science at a rate they believe humanity can handle. Humanity isn’t such a fan of this but at least the governing bodies have graduated beyond the ‘kill ’em all and take their stuff’ model of political relations. So it makes sense that Starfleet isn’t exactly brimming with Vulcans (who see no logic in joining the military for another species). In that context, it does make sense that Kirk hasn’t exactly met all that many vulcans. The one he’s met is a paragon of all the virtues Kirk is trained to find valuable, because they’re both Starfleet officers.

But I digress.

Spock has thought ahead and made tapes of Kirk giving false orders, and has enough foresight to include some confirmation messages. I’m not sure whether that’s supposed to be an example of his Vulcan logic, or just competent Starfleet training. McCoy, meanwhile, is doing a little soliloquey about how humans are primarily the brain.He’s also making a soliloquey about how Spock is incapable of going bananapants and running amok. This is because McCoy knows literally nothing about Vulcans.

Kirk is being told to read up on Talos IV, which is restricted under the only

But where's the flush lever?

But where’s the flush lever?

death penalty in Starfleet. So I guess it wasn’t too much of a spoiler when I told you this was going to happen. And now Spock has absconded with Pike and the Enterprise on autopilot.  I have to wonder, though, just how Spock managed to make these recordings of Kirk. The Enterprise is being chased by a starbase shuttlecraft. Which implies that shuttlecraft can keep up with a starship that’s trying to evade pursuit. They do not, however, have the range for it, so that answers that question.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Talos IV death penalty. It makes sense, but because it seems an incongruity for the Federation, I’ll go into it. The Talosians are terrifying, a threat which does not operate by force of arms, but on brains. As we saw in “The Cage” they are capable of masking themselves, physical objects, and generally creating mental illusions for multiple people that are indistinguishable from reality. If Talosian containment is breached by a creature seriously wishing harm to the Federation, it’s unclear how Starfleet would even know there was a threat until too late. They would be the perfect spies. They would be the perfect saboteurs. Assuming one was both malevolent and patient, the Federation could be taken apart from the inside by one being. To publicize that would also be dangerous, so the top brass in charge have decided to resurrect the death penalty, solely for the crime of breaking quarantine of a planet full of the scariest species in the galaxy. After all, a Klingon can only kill you.

Spock has locked the Enterprise on course to Talos IV and has demanded to be court-martialled by Kirk, whatshisface from the starbase, and Pike. And has maneuvered himself into being able to present whatever story he wants to tell. Clever, or perhaps the starbase commander is just that dumb.

Wait, if these are from the logs, then WHO WAS PHONE?!?!

Wait, if these are from the logs, then WHO WAS PHONE?!?!

Also, are we going to get to see Kirk look at Pike’s first officer and go “Holy shit, that’s Chrisitine Chapel! Isn’t she supposed to be schtuping that robot doctor from ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?’ at this point?” Apparently not. What we are going to see is basically a recap of “The Cage.” Having watched that episode already, it’s a little more poignant watching Chris Pike talk about how he’d like to retire and go on all kinds of adventures, which the Talosians then try to give him. Which is Spock’s point, of course. The Talosians didn’t seem to want to conquer the galaxy, but to live vicariously though the dreams of others. Given that Pike is stuck inside a toilet tank, it’s pretty clear that this is a win-win for Pike and for the Talosians.

From here on in it looks like we’re just looking at a recap of “The Cage” but with a frame story. This makes sense because “The Cage” wasn’t actually aired until 1986. This is actually a two-part episode but since I’ve covered most of it already I’m going to combine them. This will also make episode numbers for the rest of the season line up with those on Wikipedia.

The lionization of Vina is further evidence that Talos IV is basically perfect for Pike in his condition. One of the fun questions we can ask ourselves in watching that episode again is “when did they actually break through the door?”

Ah. These images are coming from Talos IV, which explains how we manage to see things from the narrator’s point of view. Of course, this revelation is a sufficient cliffhanger to take us into PART TWO!!!

Part 2

In which we recap “The Cage,”  the court-martial continues, and 

There is no reason for this expression. None.

There is no reason for this expression. None. It literally happens for no reason. 

Spock is narrating “The Cage” for Kirk and really-who-cares-what-his-name-is. It’s a shame that the story frame-structure calls for this, because that was a pretty decent episode. I’m not sure that came off in my review, because I was drunk at the time of writing it, but it doesn’t suffer from a lot of the problems that plagued the early main season. I’m not sure I can forgive Star Trek for “Mudd’s Women,” but it does make every other episode look better by comparison. Also, the more I look at that screenshot, the more Vina resembles Paris Hilton. That’s really unfortunate.

With the transmission stopped unexpectedly, the three commanders can only vote Guilty. It’s only after the Enterprise enters orbit over Talos IV that we get to continue watching the episode. Funnily, I don’t actually remember some of this ending dialogue. It feels like some scenes were re-shot to make it more reasonable for Spock to be acquitted.

What, the commodore was an illusion this whole time? Kind of a Deus Ex Machina. But what’s terrifying is that the Talosians appear to be capable of using their ju-ju from light-years away. I’m not sure that the quarantine order is going to be at all effective. At this point, it’s as if the Federation tried to quarantine the Q. They’re just going to do what they want anyway. In this case, you might be able to enforce a quarantine zone of several light-years radius around their planet, but given that this radius extends all the way to Starbase 11, I’m not sure how feasible this is. The Federation just has to count its lucky stars that the Talosians are not hostile. I don’t think they’d allow that whole ‘bombard the planet with phasers until there’s nothing left but debris’ maneuver they threatened before.

Did we miss something awesome?